In high school, I'd wear Converses.
Or Chuck Taylors, whatever you called 'em.
I'd remember going to a new school, proudly wearing
a pair of Converses with the same blue shade
as my new school's uniform skirts;
how I'd attend Phys Ed with the same trainers,
even though it wasn't a good idea to use them
for physical activity.
I remember riding in the back
of my father's motorcycle as we
did errands around the town,
and he'd indulge me by parking near
a road chock full of thrift stores --
and we'd go in, under a false pretense of
"just checking, just a quick look-around"
and my father would surprise me
by buying me a thrifted pair.
They were either pink, or magenta,
and I was at that age of rebellion --
"no girly colors", I'd shout --
but I'd always wear them out,
and it always made my dad smile.
I once came home with my friends
without telling my father,
and he was out in the front porch,
half-naked as all Asian dads are,
and he was clipping some brand new Converses
on the wash line to dry.
I had been so embarrassed, because this
was the first time that my friends
had seen my father, had seen my house
but all they could see was how kind he was
by surprising me with a new pair.
I had a total of seven pairs of Converses,
one of them he paid his sister to buy for me
from the United States.
I keep them in a box, under the sink,
because even though my feet have grown,
I'm still unable to sell them nor give them away.
In college, I wore Palladiums --
big, thick, chunky lace-up boots
that looked out of place in a college freshman's closet
and more at home tied by the shoelaces to a soldier's bag.
I've moved to the capital city,
away from my little brother, away from my father.
I lived with my mother, who worked and moved
until her body gave out and she'd have to take some days to rest.
She bought me my first pair when I asked;
because she told me that
"first impressions last; but shoes are always what stays in a person's mind",
which was funny seeing as how
Palladium was, first and foremost,
a company from the age of the Great Wars
that manufactured the tires fitted for airplanes;
and that now, decades later, rebranded themselves
as a company with a recognizable design --
channeling urban life, heavy endurance,
and the soul of recreating one's image,
rising from the ashes of the past like some sort of phoenix.
My mother had wanted me to fit in,
yet be unique at the same time,
in a world that moved so fast that I had to run just to keep up.
And she'd buy me pairs not as often as my father did,
but it was always in celebration.
Either for a job well done, a reward for good grades,
or simple because it was my birthday.
Those Palladiums became my signature shoes,
and I was the only one to wear them
inside the university.
At one point, I was recognizable because
of a particularly special pair --
Palladiums that were bright, firetruck red
and had the material of raincoats --
that people would know it was me
even from far away, just by the color of my boots.
I had six pairs in total; all heavy, all colorful,
with different textures and different price points,
and my mother bought me these special shoeboxes
which we stacked til the ceiling, right beside
her own tower of heels for special occasions,
because that was what defined us.
I've started buying my own shoes,
and I'm not as brand-exclusive as I was before.
There's a pair of no-names, some banged up Filas,
even a pair of Doc Martens I'm too afraid to bust out.
They're also not as colorful; because I know that
black pairs and white pairs are easier to style
in any day, in any weather, with any color or material.
Most of them were for everyday use, and it required
a certain level of comfort, a certain level of durability,
that was worthy of that certain retail price.
I look at my shoe rack, and realize
that I am not as colorful as I once was.
I do not have that sense
of colorful, wild, down-on-my-luck rebellion
that my father put up with in my adolescent years.
I lost my drive of being
a colorful, unique, instantly recognizable upstart
as my mother had taught me to be.
My shoes have no stories to tell,
no personality to express --
a row of blacks and whites, the occasional greys.
And when I look internally,
it's the same, monochromatic expanse staring back at me.
I am in a place where
I am everywhere and nowhere at once.
I can't tell whether my feet
are solidly on the ground,
or pointed to the sky, toes wriggling in the clouds.
In an ever-growing shoe rack
filled with old, ***** Converses,
and heavy, attention-seeking Palladiums,
I choose a comfortable pair of plain, white sneakers
and head out in the open,
paving my own way.
I take comfort in the fact
that it's just the beginning.
That I am at the start
of my designated brick road,
an endless expanse before me.
My shoes will acquire color,
my designs will develop taste,
my soul will be injected into the soles of my feet
with every step I take --
forward, backward, it doesn't matter
so long as I keep moving.